How Germany Will Line Up Against Republic of Ireland
As the press prepared for the upcoming fixture between Germany and Ireland at the Mungersdorfer Stadion—known now as the Rhein Energie Stadion to their sponsors—on Friday evening, the DFL had arranged the pre-match press conference in the most peculiar location.
Deep in Cologne at the official Mercedes Centre, the media were invited to quiz players and coaches alike amidst the setting of a modern, round hall lit by black and green lights with the famous car emblem projected on to every available angle.
As such it's not surprising that the word '"luxury" is often thrown about when discussing this current Germany side and the wealth of options that seem available to coach Joachim Low in equipping this current generation with World Cup ambitions.
Yet within the 23-man squad that Low announced earlier in the week, only one available striker was deemed appropriate for the occasion, while both Lars and Sven Bender pulled out through injury along with Dortmund forward Marco Reus.
With just a win required against the Republic of Ireland on Friday night, Low will be desperate for the win but has shown that he is willing to offer other players the opportunity to prove themselves, especially in light of so many unforeseen injuries.
In defence, Low is likely to keep things simple with his tried-and-tested back line of Philipp Lahm at right-back, Jerome Boateng at centre-back alongside Per Mertesacker, while Marcell Jansen of Hamburg makes his way back in to the squad due to Marcel Schmelzer's injury.
Although Mats Hummels is fully fit and available to play, Low has opted for Mertesacker and Boateng recently and is unlikely to risk such a game by throwing in the Dortmund player while his form takes such dramatic turns every week.
In midfield, it'll most likely be Bastian Schweinsteiger and Sami Khedira who partner up in the middle of the pitch, while Arsenal new boy Mezut Ozil takes up his regular spot of No. 10 for the national team.
With both Bender brothers pulling out through injury, it's almost a certainty that Khedira will start the game, yet Toni Kroos may be preferred to Schweinsteiger with the German vice-captain still struggling to regain full match fitness—especially in a match Germany are expected to win rather comfortably.
Where things get trickier to predict are in the front three positions that lead the German attack. With just one recognisable striker but a whole host of naturally adaptable forwards, Low could set up the front three in a number of different ways.
The inclusion of Sydney Sam, a player with more goals plus assists than any other in the Bundesliga so far this season, would make sense considering the recent call-up due to his recent form.
Thomas Muller has always been a favourite of Low's when played on the right-hand side, although the forward can play as the lone striker as we saw against Manchester City in the Champions League last week.
That then leaves us with Mario Gotze, Andre Schurrle, Julian Draxler and, of course, Max Kruse.
Although Draxler played in the previous game against the Faroe Islands, and Andre Schurrle has been in excellent form for Chelsea of late, I'd be surprised if either of them started in any position aside from Sydney Sam's, thus leaving the lone striker role to either Kruse, Gotze or, of course, Muller.
In this particular encounter against an Ireland side that Low will be desperate to test with his fringe players, I'd expect the front line to be something along the lines of the formation shown in the image above, with Muller on the right, Sam on the left and Max Kruse as the lone striker up front.
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